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I am of the woods…

I did it! I got out for a hike yesterday and it was glorious!! Not the perfect day, ideal weather, not by a long shot: it was fully overcast and gray. The temperatures were not bad for February – above freezing but not reaching 40dF so chilly, but not truly cold. I chose a trail I’ve not hiked before, part of it anyway.

The entire mapped trail is 11.7 miles and I did 7.3 miles. As it turned out, that was a great way to start the hiking season as I finished a little tired, but not worn out and not sore.

I awoke this morning with minor achiness in my thighs, more in the right one which is the one that took damage in the great fall earlier this year. I suspect the ache is a little stronger in that one due to the fact that I had some difficulty using it for a couple of weeks after and likely weakened it, while the other leg took on more work and was in a bit better shape yesterday. No matter though, the aches are extremely mild and typical for the first couple hikes after a long stretch of not hiking.

It is not a terribly strenuous hike, some elevation changes but nothing extreme, perhaps 500’ total gain in the hike. There were some really nice water features, a couple of big ponds and lots of streams, one of which ran along the trail for almost a half mile, like a thin black ribbon along the forest floor. I came across a tree on the edge of a pond with fresh beaver gnawing on it and a quick look around revealed the beaver lodge only a few feet off shore. If they were home, they did not let it on to me though.

A quick prequel comment here. I use AllTrails, which is a hiking app that provides excellent detail of any and all trails every mapped out in any given location. Once you launch the app, you can hit start and it will begin to time your hike as well as provide distance covered, elevation change, mile splits, etc. But the real beauty is it will show you exactly where you are using GPS, so no issue with having a cellular signal.

Now when I looked at this trail before I began, I noticed a lot of little spur trails looping throughout the whole area, meaning you can wind your way as much as you wish without being stuck on a single trail. But one thing in particular jumped out at me, there was a loop at the far end that was almost right on top of Rt95. Now I had previously read that there was a path on this trail that took you within 100’ or less of the highway and for some reason I found that intriguing, so I planned to do that. But when I studied the map there was a leg that clearly showed you crossing the highway.

It is not unusual for a trail to cross over a road, sometimes more than once. And it is also not uncommon to have a road as part of the hike for some small distance before diving back into the woods. But a highway? Never!! I was sure the map was wrong – there was no way you had to cross four lanes of 65MPH traffic. Turns out the map was right; but you go UNDER the highway using two tunnels, one under the northbound lanes and one under the southbound. It was eerie, it was cool, it was almost a bit dystopian. To follow the path I had set for myself I had no need to cross, but I could not resist doing so!

In summation, it was an amazing hike, more so because I was so overdue in getting out there than anything in the hike itself. Don’t get me wrong, the woods are absolutely enticing, alluring even. As I recently commented elsewhere: “I am from the woods, I must return to the woods…for I am the master and the forest is my mistress.” I’ve never hiked a trail, or section of a trail, where there was nothing attractive or beautiful; stands of dead trees, stands of living trees, swamps, bogs, muddy creeks, swollen rivers and whatever else you can imagine all hold their own unique beauty and each on their own make the hike in to see worth the while.

Today we are experiencing a sleet event; there is a coating of icy/snowy/wet slop on everything. It is white and looks like snow, but it is not snow. There is a decent chance it will turn fully to rain at some point, which will add a whole new layer to the mix! I find myself thinking how much I’d like to be back on the same trail today. The temperature between yesterday and today is about the same but of course, a hike today would be incredibly difficult due to the slippery conditions. But I think the beauty of this shiny white precipitation would be remarkable; especially seeing the dark streams cutting through the white landscape. Another time perhaps.

That is all for now, not sure when I will be on trail again – perhaps I can get out for a hike or two next month. Until then I wish you to be able to get out into the woods and bask in its beauty. Stay well dear reader!

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